Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ferdinand Gunzendorfer

Ferdinand Gunzendorfer

Ferdinand was the first of my Gunzendorfers to be born outside of the United States.  He was born in Adelsdorf, Bavaria, Germany on August 1, 1838 and emigrated to the United States in 1849 (could that be right - he came here at age 11?).  He was unknown and without much money and struggled for two years in the Eastern part of the country.  When he learned of the discovery of gold in California, he headed west in early 1851 (again, only 13?) via Panama.  After arriving in San Francisco, he headed to Monterey and entered into business for himself.  Beginning in 1884, the firm was known as F. Gunzendorfer & Son and was well known throughout Monterey county.  To the locals he was known as "Don Francisco"!

Ferdinand took Fannie Goldstein as his wife in 1863 and they raised four sons, Gustave (a prosecuting attorney in San Francisco), Adolph, Abraham and Jacob.  He had such confidence in the stability and future of Monterey that he invested largely in local realty.  In the 1890's he erected a business block on Alvarado Street and the building was an architectural wonder, spacious in size and incorporating modern improvements and conveniences for a dry-goods and clothing store.

Ferdinand was an accomplished musician and was regarded as an expert.  In the early days he was the director of a band in Monterey.  While Ferdinand excelled at the clarinet, his sons also mastered instruments with Gustave a fine pianist, Adolph a violinist, Jacob on the piccolo, and Abe following in his father's footsteps on the clarinet.  Ferdinand was also fluent in several languages.

He was one of Monterey's most energetic citizens and was a member of the Board of Trade (note - need to find out about this organization) as a director and was active in helping to increase the progress of the city.  He also devoted himself to fraternal societies and for more than 25 years was a member of the Masonic Lodge and A.O.U.W. (Ancient Order of United Workers). 

Ferdinand was known as the "father of the Merchants Association" and had been the president since its organization.  He was elected to that position five times, all without opposition.  He was always interested in anything that stood for the advancement of Monterey.

In 1907, Jacob and his family came from San Francisco for a visit with his parents.  They enjoyed a nice meal and conversation and before retiring at around midnight, Ferdinand went into the back yard.  After some time he returned and told his family he'd fallen down due to a fainting spell.  When he started to undress before going to bed, he fell to the floor.  His family did what they could to provide aid, summoned a doctor but before the doctor arrived, Ferdinand was gone.

Ferdinand died on October 20, 1907 at the age of 69.  His remains were taken to Hills of Eternity in Colma for burial.  Ferdinand's Memorial  

Next up - The White House

Sunday, March 27, 2011


So being that I was challenged with the Gunzendorfer line, that was my first stop.  And always will be my first stop because, well, there just aren't that many of them.  Whenever I'm trying something out and want to do a quick search, I always type in Gunzendorfer.  And if the results are in English, they're one of two tribes.

My Gunzendorfer line comes from my paternal grandmother, Mildred Loraine.  Loraine was the daughter of Abraham and his wife, Bertha Schwartz.  Abe was the third of four sons of Ferdinand Gunzendorfer and Fannie Goldstein and they were a prominent family in California, primarily San Francisco and Monterey.

Loraine was quite a character and as a child I remember she was always nagging for us to do one thing or another.  As kids we spent quite a bit of time with her and Grandpa Sig, most memorably at their house in Fresno.  It was a huge house with many nooks and crannies and we loved exploring the little room off the garage with Sig.

Back to the rest of the clan.  Ferdinand came to California sometime between 1852 and 1854 from Adelsdorf, Bavaria, Germany and married a cute little Polish girl, Fannie, in 1863.  Ferdinand was a successful business owner in Monterey and owned/operated The White House, a mercantile on Alvarado Street.  With the exception of the oldest boy, Gustave, who became a lawyer, the boys (Adolph, Abe, and Jacob) followed in the family business.

What's interesting is that while searching the Gunzendorfers I found Adolph in New York.  After much research, I discovered this must be a different Adolph Gunzendorfer.  Was it really possible that there could be two Adolph Gunzendorfers born in Germany in the 1866-1867 time frame?  I've since connected with the great granddaughter of the New York Adolph Gunzendorfer and in my heart, I know we're related.  My gut tells me the New York Adolph's father, Bernhard, was the brother of my Ferdinand.  Could it be that they both came to the United States separately and both named their sons Adolph?  Maybe their father was named Adolph?  That little project is on hold for now but one day, I'll solve that mystery.

Abraham Gunzendorfer
Now on to my great grandfather, Abraham Gunzendorfer.  Abe was a native of Monterey, California and lived most of his life there.  Upon his father's death in 1907, Abe took over the White House department store until his retirement in 1941.  He was one of California's earliest amateur photographers and during a visit by President Benjamin Harrison, Abe took his photograph and later received a personal note of thanks (boy, would I love to get my hands on that document).  In 1891, Abe organized the first hook and ladder company in Monterey and was later made a lifetime member of that city's fire department.

Abe and Bertha were married September 9, 1894 and their two children (Mildred Loraine and Wilton) joined the family before the end of the century.   They raised the children in Monterey and lived for many years on Pacific Street.  When he wasn't busy running the business, he spent time collecting early-day newspapers and interesting old coins. 

His many friends were deeply shocked when they learned of his death on May 4, 1944.  His health had been poor for several years and he had been mostly confined to his home but he continued with his keen interest in local and world affairs.  He is interred at Hills of Eternity in Colma, California  Abe's Memorial

Next up - Ferdinand Gunzendorfer

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Who knew?

Who knew my mom would challenge me years ago with the statement "there are no Gunzendorfers left in the United States"?  What's strange is that the Gunzendorfers are in my DAD'S family, not my mom's.  But she threw out the challenge and being a good daughter, I decided to take the bait and prove her wrong.  Who knew where it would lead?

About 7-8 years ago, I told my friend, Kerry about the challenge.  Kerry and I have never met in person, but I feel like I've known her forever.  We "met" on a HR board about 10 years ago and while she is an awesome HR professional, her passion has always been genealogy.  So she did some quick research on the Gunzendorfers and sent me an e-mail.  I still have that e-mail.

So here I am today.  I started researching the Gunzendorfers about a year ago and have branched out in so many directions with the help of my partner-in-genealogy, Jan.  I've learned that my 5th great grandfather on my mother's side, Ashbel Waller, served in the Revolutionary War.  And his grandson, Emery Waller, (my 3rd great grandfather) served in the Civil War.  I've learned that just like my grandmothers told me when we gave our daughter the middle name of Rebecca, both of their grandmothers really were named Rebecca (Steen and Waller).  I've learned that my dad's family really are Jewish and that the Jews in California have been studied and researched - a lot.  And while I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet, I've learned that there really might not be any Gunzendorfers left in the United States.  Who knew Mom might be right?

I'll document as much as I can and, hopefully, one day my children and grandchildren will be glad that I did.  And maybe, just maybe, I'll find someone out there who is researching my family and we can share information.

But most of all, I'll learn more about who I am and where I came from.  I'll take it one step at a time and one relative at a time.  And I'll document the journey as I go.

Who knew I'd find this so fascinating?